The nature of villainy and fall from grace are the subjects at hand. The events surrounding a particular instance of this where a certain iconic mutant’s resolve is tested thoroughly are discussed at length in the following paragraphs. If you have not read the recent Marvel Comics arc Avengers vs X-Men, and you intend to, do not read ahead. SPOILERS BELOW.
Since the X-Men debuted in 1963, Cyclops has been the backbone of active roster. Through thick and thin, high and low, Cyclops was always a dependable, decisive leader and an unwavering champion of Xavier’s dream. Over the last 6 years Cyclops traveled down a different, darker path that ultimately led to his villainous turn in Avengers vs. X-Men. For better or worse, Cyclops is now a villain and the most hated mutant in the Marvel Universe. And that’s how it should stay for at least the next 10-15 years: Cyclops, the new foil for Xavier’s dream, arch-nemesis of the new generation of X-Men and champion of mutantkind.
Cyclops’ path to villainy started in 2005 after the Scarlet Witch depowered most of Earth’s mutants during House of M, leaving only 198 mutants in existence. Afterwards, he started gathering and ensuring the survival of the remaining mutants, and I would argue that was the moment Cyclops abandoned Xavier’s dream of peaceful coexistence with humans. Following House of M, Cyclops expelled all depowered mutants from the Xavier Institute (including Xavier himself), sanctioned the formation of a new X-Force to clandestinely terminate threats to mutantkind, disbanded the X-Men, relocated to Utopia to establish a mutant-only nation, declared all inhabitants of Utopia soldiers for mutant survival, and exiled everyone who didn’t agree. Finally, we reach 2012’s Avengers vs. X-Men, where Cyclops is possessed by the Phoenix Force, defeats Emma Frost, kills Charles Xavier and tries to burn the world away. Now he’s sealed in a ruby quartz prison with a ruby quartz helmet and shackled hands, showing little remorse for his actions.
This is a large arc for a character as nuanced and intricately tied to the X-verse as Scott Summers. From issue #1 he’s been the groomed leader and figurehead of the X-Men. Cyclops has arguably the most destructive power in the entire X-verse, but he always exercised restraint and control, only unleashing his full power when absolutely necessary to defend himself. That description alone embodies what Xavier’s dream was all about: restraint, self-control and using powers for self-defense. Cyclops was the ideal candidate for the X-Men’s leadership, which is why his downfall is all the more heartbreaking. The leader and embodiment of Xavier’s dream has become the new Magneto, solely concerned with the survival of mutants.
To modify Magneto in the first X-Men movie: “You know this ruby quartz prison of theirs won’t hold me forever.” Cyclops might not start a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, but he’ll certainly bust out of jail, gain followers to his cause and fight his former friends and allies. I predict that Cyclops and Beast will have the dynamic that Xavier and Magneto had: two sides of the same struggle to secure mutants a place in the world.
Cyclops could and should remain a villain for at least the next 10 years of stories. We’ve had 7 years of build-up to the point where the leader of the X-Men becomes their worst nightmare. Let’s soak in the payoff. Leave Cyclops a villain. He has the motivation, charisma, and destructive power to be a Magneto-like villain for a new generation. This is the perfect opportunity for Marvel to keep readers on their toes during Marvel NOW!. Sure, it’s comics and he’ll come back to the X-Men eventually, but let’s grow one of the more richly developed X-Men into something he’s never been before.
For that matter, the X-verse hasn’t had a Big Bad in quite some time. Magneto hasn’t really been evil since the end of Morrison’s run on New X-Men in 2004, Apocalypse has been in and out of the books but never a constant danger (outside of Uncanny X-Force), Mr. Sinister hasn’t been a huge threat, Mystique isn’t really “arch-nemesis” material, Stryker is dead, Nimrod is... just not around, who knows what’s up with the Marauders and the Morlocks, and The Hellfire Club is run by 10-year olds (I swear I’m not making that up; go read Schism).
Now that Cyclops is essentially Public Enemy #1, he’s a universal threat to every X-Man and mutant on Earth. He’s the guy who nearly killed Hope Summers. He’s the only Dark Phoenix that the younger mutants have ever known. Cyclops is someone that every mutant can believably hate and rally against, or stand behind as soldiers in his war. And best of all, he’s a villain with a perverted interpretation of a noble cause, just like Magneto. Let him be Magneto for a new generation and break new ground in the X-verse. In the past, X-Men have defected to the Brotherhood, become Horsemen of the Apocalypse, joined the Marauders or just gone rogue completely, but not one of them has ever taken the place of a major villain in the way that Cyclops has supplanted Magneto. I can’t wait to see what a villainous Cyclops can do.
Stay nerdy, my friends.